12 - 48 Months

Benefits of having a family pet

Baby and dog laying in The Play Gym by Lovevery

There are many health and emotional benefits that can come from loving and being loved by a pet. Studies suggest that a child’s relationship with a pet can have a positive effect on their self-esteem, capacity for empathy, and ability to cope with both grief and loneliness. 

Spending time with a dog or cat—or both—can also help strengthen your child’s immune system. For example, babies who live with dogs, in particular, get fewer respiratory infections and ear infections than children with no dogs at home, according to a study in Pediatrics.

4 ways pets may build skills and attachment

As your child grows older, there are additional benefits to be gained from having an animal at home (and not just a dog or cat—the same goes for turtles, rabbits, hamsters, and other species): 

  1. Learning how to care for another living thing through age-appropriate chores such as filling up a water dish.
  2. Having another source of unconditional love and comfort in times of stress. A pet can help them calm down and increase their sense of security.
  3. Experiencing the consequences of pushing boundaries. If your child pulls your cat’s tail and the cat darts off, you can help them understand by saying something like, “the cat didn’t like that, so she ran away.”
  4. Building social-emotional skills. Your child can share their thoughts and feelings to a sympathetic and captive audience. 

A few pet safety tips

The human and animal members of your family can enjoy a rich relationship, as long as all of them—especially your toddler—are kept safe. 

  • Never leave your toddler and an animal alone together, even for a moment.
  • Some dogs have issues around food, so even as you start including your child in pet-related chores and tasks, don’t involve them in feeding.
  • Keep your toddler’s play areas clean and free of any animal waste.
  • Immediately address even the slightest aggressive behavior toward your child.
  • If you have a pet exit on your door, make sure your toddler can’t fit through it.

Read more about the research

Bergroth, E., Remes, S., Pekkanen, J., Kauppila, T., Büchele, G., & Keski-Nisula, L. (2012). Respiratory tract illnesses during the first year of life: effect of dog and cat contacts. Pediatrics, 130(2), 211-220.

Blue, G. F. (1986). The value of pets in children’s lives. Childhood Education, 63(2), 85-90.

Purewal, R., Christley, R., Kordas, K., Joinson, C., Meints, K., Gee, N., & Westgarth, C. (2017). Companion animals and child/adolescent development: a systematic review of the evidence. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 14(3), 234.

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Posted in: 12 - 48 Months, 0 - 12 Months, Lovevery App, Social Emotional, Empathy, Animals, Practical Life, Child Development

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